April 23rd, 2012
04:43 PM ET
Liberty University responds to Romney controversy, angers online students
By Dan Merica and Laura Bernardini, CNN
Washington (CNN) – Liberty University reacted over the weekend to a brewing controversy over the fact that the evangelical school has selected Mitt Romney, a Mormon, to speak at the school’s graduation.
In a statement from Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., the school says that the complaints have significantly died down and that many of those complaining “had no affiliation with the university.”
“We have also noticed over the last few days that students with reservations about Romney's appearance at Liberty basically fit into one of two categories,” Falwell, Jr. wrote. “They were either strong supporters of other candidates who were seeking the Republican nomination or they were online students who were not as familiar with Liberty University's traditions.”
After last week’s announcement, hundreds of comments were registered under the announcement on Liberty’s Facebook page. While some were supportive of the decision to invite Romney, a number of respondents were angered and posted their frustration to Facebook.
As of Monday morning, the announcement was deleted from the page, along with all the comments.
“Complaints died down because they took the ability to complain down from the website,” said Janet Loeffler, a 53-year old freshman at Liberty who takes classes online. Loeffler was a frequent poster to the Facebook page.
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According Johnnie Moore, vice president of executive projects and spiritual programs, the post was removed because "people who had no affiliation with the university were using our Facebook page to air their grievances and to engage in conversations that violated our policies with regard to social media etiquette."
"We just decided to eliminate the post all together rather than let our page be the place where these arguments were taking place," Moore wrote in an e-mail to CNN. "With regard to our students, the university has a number of channels for our students and constituents to express feedback, and that feedback is attended to by Liberty staff who have input in, and understanding of, the university's operations and decision making."
Though the deletion of the post bothered Loeffler, it was the statement about online students familiarity with Liberty’s traditions that she says deeply offended her.
“It is just a complete lie. You cannot get through your first semester at Liberty Online without taking their Theology 101 and Apologetics 101,” Loeffler said.
Loeffler provided CNN with a copy of the page in the freshman textbook “The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics” which includes a number of passages on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called Mormons. “Mormon doctrine stands in stark contrast to Jewish and Christian monotheism,” reads the passage, “which teaches that there is only one true God and that every other ‘God’ is a false god.”
Liberty's handling of the situation "has very much altered my thinking of Liberty,” Loeffler said. “I haven’t registered for my fall classes yet because of it. I am offended that they would talk to us like that, telling us that we just don’t understand.”
Many of the anti-Liberty comments, including Loeffler’s charged that Mormonism goes against the teachings of the school and claimed that the religion is a cult. The charge of Mormonism as a cult is not a new one for the church, however. In a 2011 column, Michael Otterson, head of public affairs for the LDS Church described the word as a, “a neat, shorthand and rather lazy way of putting a whole group into a box.”
The nation’s largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptist Conference, lists the LDS Church as a cult. They specifically cite differences in theology surrounding salvation, baptism, belief in the Trinity, and marriage. A major sticking point between other Christian traditions and Mormons is the Book of Mormon, which Mormons believe is divinely inspired scripture and on par with the Bible. Other Christians do not recognize the Book of Mormon as scripture.
Oyindamola Bankole, a 22-year old online psychology major at Liberty, said she was disappointed that the comments had been deleted from the website.
“I thought it was very cowardly,” Bankole said in an interview with CNN. “There were a lot of good conversations and debates and people were arguing both sides and I was shocked when they took it down.”
Bankole will be graduating this year from Liberty but has opted to walk in 2013. Though the school differs between online and on-campus students, all walk in the same graduation. This year, 14,000 students will walk and 35,000 are expected to attend as guests.
“Even though we're online students, it's still our graduation,” Bankole said. “The Liberty University Online students are going to be flying in, renting rooms in hotels, and going to the same graduation, so why does our opinion not matter as much? There are 70,000 online students compared to the 12,500 residential students, according to Liberty's website. Glad to know we're just numbers and income in their eyes.”
Liberty University was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by the influential pastor and Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell. He founded the school to be a Christian university for evangelical believers, according to Liberty’s website. Today, Liberty brands itself as the largest evangelical university in the world, with 82,500 students enrolled either on campus or online.
This debate over Romney’s selection further tests the relationship between Mormons and evangelicals. With Romney as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party, many political commentators are asking whether the evangelical base, an important voting bloc to the GOP, will come out for Romney.
Tony Perkins, a Liberty graduate and the president of the Family Research Council, said he sees the Romney speech as an opportunity.
"As Christians we can disagree strongly but we show respect and I think they will show respect for Mitt Romney," Perkins said on CNN's Starting Point Monday morning.
"They may not warmly applaud him and may continue to express differences and clearly there are differences theologically between Mormons and Christians, but here's an opportunity for Mitt Romney to talk about what he has in common with evangelicals and that is on the value issues," Perkins said.
But if the evangelical vote hinges on how evangelicals see Mormonism, Romney may need further outreach to the evangelical community. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds 47% of white evangelicals say that Mormonism is not a Christian religion, while 66% say Mormonism and their religion are “very or somewhat different.”
Loeffler and Bankole both look at this as a way for Liberty to help Romney with evangelical voters.
“This is nothing more than a political rally, at a time when graduates are having their lives dedicated to the work they were trained to do at Liberty,” Loeffler said.
In their statement, though, Falwell Jr. said over the past 25 years, many people have been invited to speak at graduation and “most of them did not share Liberty’s doctrinal beliefs.”
Graduation at Liberty, like at most colleges and universities, features a baccalaureate event before the final graduation. This year, Liberty has invited Luis Palau, a preacher that Liberty bills as "among the most influential Christian leaders of all time."
Mark DeMoss, a Liberty graduate, member of the Board of Trustees and a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, when reached on Monday made mention of Glenn Beck being the first Mormon to address Liberty graduates at commencement and added some background to how the decisions have been made.
“I remember the first time Falwell, Sr. decided to use a commencement speaker that was not evangelical because it was controversial to some at the time," Demoss said of Liberty's founder Jerry Falwell Sr. "And he explained, or justified it, by virtue of us having a baccalaureate service that was a decidedly Christian service. And commencement could feature a prominent figure from politics or business – evangelical or not evangelical.”
“Liberty has never held a commencement that did not include a strong gospel message from a evangelical leader at baccalaureate,” Falwell Jr. wrote.
- CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
God has a special place for false prophets and their followers
If you're a mormon:
You believe in a man named Joseph Smith that declared himself a general against the American Government and then said he would create a Theocratic Monarchy with himself at its head.
You also believe in a man named Joseph Smith that married a 14 year old girl – even though he already had plural wives – because he told the child's family they would receive instant eternal salvation if they gave her to him (Smith).
You also believe in becoming a god after this life if you have committed to and followed all of your temple rituals sincerely and without deviance.
You also believe that anyone that is not a mormon will NOT be allow to be with Jesus Christ or God, no matter how good they are, if they do not accept your gospel (religion) to be the only true church. For example. Mother Teresa will not be in heaven if she does not accept a posthumous baptism in the after life.
You also believe that you must take on secret temple names, wear garments (underwear) that has secret symbols that are used in secret rituals in the temple as well as a blood oath that began in 1843, but ended in 1990 when there was a general uproar amongst non-mormons that found out about this particular ritual.
You also believe Blacks and Native Americans were marked with dark skin for being evil in the pre-life or because they just displeased god.
You believe that once you are a god of your own world, you with your heavenly wife will create spirit children that will then fill the earthly bodies of human on your own particular planet that you rule over...meaning that you are already (in certain terms) better than the God that created this planet.
You do believe that Lucifer and Jesus were and are brothers. Sign A TRUE Conservative Republican."
Hey. It's no different than all the BS that other religions believe.
if your a Christian you believe
God spoke and the Earth was created...
that God killed all but 8 people because people did not worship him
Man can talk to an omnipresent being 'face to face'
that a sea can be parted
fire came down from heaven, 'licked up' an alter, and consumed wicked people
a chariot can come from heaven and take people away
people can be raised from the dead
at the word of a man the heavens can be sealed up to not rain fro 3.5 years
men can survive being put in a den of lions, or a furnace of fire
the Son of God was born to a woman who never 'knew' a man
Religion is full of many things that we don't understand, if you approach the Bible it cycnicm then you will only see how often the Lord of Sabboath kills the wicked, and never how many times he spares the meek and abased. Joseph Smith never claimed to be anything more than Moses, Jonah, Elijah, Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. If you can't accept him as a prophet of God then fine, but then you must read the Bible, and tell me where it says that
God changes how he talks to people
miracles can no longer occur on the earth
prophets are not needed today
no more scriptures are needed for today (and don't quote Revelation, because I will quote Dueteronomy, and the fact that the bible wasn't put together as a book till hundreds of years after Revelation was written)
God only cares about one group of people, and ignores what goes on with everyone else in the whole world. For that matter, that he doesn't lead the righteous away from the wicked so they can be spared and worship him as he commanded them.
However, if you believe in Flying Spaghetti Monster, you get to go to a heaven that has a beer volcano and a stripper factory.
FSM wins it every time.
Mitt Romney is an evil alien from Kolob.
His wife Ann is an ugly alien from Kolob.
She's evil too.
Its all in the book of mormon
Mormons as a people group are not more or less evil than any other people group. As a whole it appears Mormons are perhaps even nicer than most people groups. There is nothing to suggest that Mr. Romney, his wife or his family are evil.God bless
He laughed about firing thousands of Americans.
Making comedy of the plight of his fellow man.
I cant think of a more EVIL, UNCHRISTIANLIKE response than that!
YIkes. Hopefully, you aren't associated with Liberty. So many crazies posting on CNN.
My viewpoint is solidly supported here.
Liberty students should just throw pennies at him.
He needs a couple for his penny loafers
Make it rain pennies.
Force him offstage.
Now that we know Native Mongolian DNA came from migrations of Israelite East M'nashe, Natives should unite and protest that this perversion of our history is being disseminated world wide. Anyone have the money to sue Salt Lake City?
Don't bother. Religions thrive on having people tell them they are frauds. It feeds into the persecution game they all love. There is no part of religion that cannot be too ridiculous and impossible for someone who has already been subsumed into its borg. So amount of reason or logic can overturn the most absurd beliefs in the mind of a believer.
All the worse, a believer of one religion can see the obvious falsehoods of every other religion, but never their own.
It does no good to true to talk sense to a religious person.
Oh, they 666 numerology thing you did below? That's pretty weird, not to mention absurd.
See my review (the only Native American review of this Satanic book) and fraud Joseph Smith who claimed an Egyptian papyri later determined to be a page from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, was the story of Abraham and Isaac in Egyptian glyphs. Smith is a fraud and LDS leadership knows it but continues his ruse.
And the purpose of the BoM is to condition a people (Mormons) to not respect or honor the Birthright of Joseph so that a Mormon president would make it part of a Palestinian state – CLEAR Satanic agenda Liberty and Regents are both hidiing from because of the prejudice against President Obama.
“Complaints died down because they took the ability to complain down from the website,” Congress should try this. They're tired of talking to us anyhow.
And Smith used a "seer stone" to divine the book. The same seer stone he used in 1826 to claim he could find buried treasure and for which he was convicted of fraud in Bainbridge County NY.
And Smith got his revelation from an "Angel of Light"
Romney probably did a good job. People have the right to disagree with his religion, but people can learn something from all people. Liberty students have the right to disagree with the choice, but would be silly to miss out on the opportunity to learn from a very successful individual.
The reason the Facebook comments were removed is Joseph (156) Smith (510) = 666.
Load the dog atop the car!
Planet Kolob ain't too far
Poor little pooch up top the rooooof?
THATS why mormons are so aloof!
Like my little Romney spoof?
Say NO TO ROMNEY2012!
Hey...how is Obama suppose to get his dog dinner if Romney is taking it away?
Romney's taking it away to butcher it.
See the blood on his hands?
Nope..just the foot in your mouth 😉
Nope, maybe up your behind tho
Ah..and here I thought I was talking with a little kid. Clearly you must be a redneck in his third year of 6th grade 🙂
Free thinking college grad.
The only red on my neck is from being out in the sun too long
Sir?! I work for a living.
"Free thinking college grad."
~We can hope.
"The only red on my neck is from being out in the sun too long'
~See what Obama did. A college grad like you working out in the sun instead of using your brains with an indoor job. We need to get the man out don't we?
I was outside working for my church on Sunday.
You should try that too.
And who at your church taught you to "up your behind tho"?
The same pastor I went to Tai kwan Do classes with.
Speak softly. Carry big stick.
No doubt you are in need of a big stick.
Bigger than you got buddy
You are welcome to have however big of a stick in yo behind as you see fit.
Prayer changes things.
Atheists don't tell children that god sends them to h e l l to be tortured forever for not believing as they do.
You just did. God bless
Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!~!
"You just did."
That's a lie unless of course you're a child. DUH!
Child? Child of God Duhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Fake Jesus. God bless
So, Pray more and spam less.
Once AGAIN, liberty "university" shows its true colors by censoring the thoughts and wishes of their students. Whatever happened to free speech, liberty?? The students are not 5 year olds, who have to depend on mommy and daddy to decide what TV program their little darlings can or can't watch.
I would urge the liberty kids to put up their own FB page, and protest there. The only one who can take it down is the owner, and the "college" wouldn't be the owner of this one.
Well, then again, you can't expect to find much "liberty", nor "education" in facts, at an evangelical institute.
There is at least one: https://www.facebook.com/wontwalk2012
I wonder if this "university" has a science department or a philosophy department or are both subjects covered by the theology department. It seems pretty obvious that they wouldn't have a debate program. Are the degrees accepted anywhere besides the church?
Steven, I was thinking the same thing.
How can an institute with such a blatant religious bias become accredited as a university? And what a misnomer of a name it has, in the case of both words, "Liberty", and "University" -what an embarrassment to the term "university".
According to Liberty's numbers, there will be 14,000 graduates this year. I imagine that some fields, like Accounting or Engineering or Nursing, etc. will require them to pass state licensing boards, so those folks might be able to be a part of the real world; but I do wonder about the rest. 14,000!
I am sure they have these departments. The likelihood that they handle these subjects well is not high.
Funny you should ask. I just happen to be a student at Liberty who is majoring in Pre-Med through the biology department and double minoring in chemistry and philosophy. Liberty has approx. 230 programs of study between graduate and undergraduate. We have a law school, a seminary, and the school is planning to have a medical school in the near future. In the biology department we are taught young earth creationism AS WELL AS evolution. We do however refute evolution, but we still learn it just as much as any secular school. Our philosophy department teaches us christian AND secular philosophy. We may not agree with the secular philosophy, but we learn it just as much as a secular school. Funny how Liberty is open to educating it's students on both sides of the issues even though we dont agree with the secular. But there is no secular school that educates it's student on both sides of the issue. So who's more open minded? Or at least willing to be educated using multiple viewpoints? Also, when the numbers add up, more people are earning non-religion degrees than religion degrees. Although I do believe religion have the single biggest department/school overall. Degrees from Liberty are accepted anywhere. Students even use their undergraduate degrees from here to continue their education at secular graduate and professional schools while many take them straight out into the real world and get jobs in basically every profession. But please, why dont you go to Liberty's website next time and do a little research into the academics that Liberty offers before making such a misinformed statement about our school next time.
By the way, we also have one of the higher nationally ranked debate teams (out of all schools, both secular and religious)! Please feel free to also visit the debate team's page through Liberty's website.
The bigger controversy should be that there are "Evangelical Universities" .... what a contradiction in terms
Where else do you go if you want a degree in wizardry?
Oh my gosh yes..because it was all those non-religious enti_ties in the Middle Ages that kept knowledge alive!
We'd be vastly further ahead in science and socially now if the vicious religious nuts of the Middle Ages hadn't been persecuting and torturing scientists.
Very doubtful since most "scientists" of those times where from religious organizations. Most of the well educated had religious backgrounds. I don't just mean in Europe either....the Muslim nations kept much of the knowledge of the Greeks alive in those times and added to it.
Wow, Kalessin, you really are that stupid and ignorant. It is not doubtful at all. Those scientists were mainly only part of those religions because they would be persecuted and even tortured if they weren't. Fuck, you're stupid.
Take your pathetic religious delusions, roll them up, dunk them in kerosene, light them on fire, and shove them up your ass. That would be fitting, given what religion has done to scientists.
@Sue- Calm yourself child. Such language from one who is suppose to be refined and wise.
I doubt you could name five persecuted scientists from the Middle Ages.
Did you know that Dante wrote about a sperical earth in the 1300's? Was he persecuted? No
There...I gave one example how you are wrong. Got a counter or just more childish insults?
"Take your pathetic religious delusions, roll them up, dunk them in kerosene, light them on fire, and shove them up your ass. That would be fitting, given what religion has done to scientists."
~HAHA..I never mentioned anything about my religious beliefs at all. You deluded little kid....when you can't win easily you lash out in a tirade on things people don't even mention or talk about.
Kalessin, you are deviously passive-obnoxious.. You invite argument with broad generalizations and then act high-and-mighty while you split hairs and quibble semantics.. Why do you like being ugly?
He might not like it, but he has no choice, mono.
@momoya- I'll go with devious.
I responded to Writerscramp's comments and all of a sudden the comment gestapo stop by to give there 2 cents. We explore the truth Momyo..If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid.
@Tomma- at least get Momoya's name right you lazy bum.
I guess this means they support Mittens. That's truly the sad part in all this.
Vote for peace – write in Ron Paul.
Ron Paul will be on the Libertarian ticket, as he always knew he would. He ran as a Republican initially to get more attention from his target market.
It's really a shame that there aren't more large parties. I think that people need to vote closest to their actual beliefs, and not cop out to the lesser of two evils that might win. It's a shame that people like Nader and Perot and Paul are seen as election losers for somebody else when their real value is to tell ones own general side "you are doing a lousy job representing me."
twh,,,,,,,, "Vote for peace – write in Ron Paul"
Vote for a better "write-in" Christ Jesus,,,,, The sopposed Prince of Peace! 🙂 🙁 🙂
Voting for your god-boy won't make it exist. It doesn't.
Just eliminate the two party system, outlaw lobbying and outside donations. Make candidates run on their own thoughts and ideas instead of party platforms, and make them pay for their own elections.
I wonder if Jesus would have invited him to be a guest speaker.
Jesus would get up in front of the crowd and tell them "You didn't understand a damn thing, you stupud hypocrites! I would send you all to hell immediately if only I wasn't the gardener from Mexico!"
What Jesus would say if he was there
The only good Mexican gardeners have going for them are the damn weeds they grow!!!!!
Well, that is rude! Maybe we should ask Paul. If Paul were here today, what church would he belong to? Paul actually answered that question in 1 Corinthians, " 10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, abut Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name."
It is pretty obvious that Paul would not approve of the Lutheran church, or the Methodist, or the Baptist or any of the evangelical churches of the day. He said himself that he would only belong to the Church of Jesus Christ, and if he were alive today, he would belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Days and, yes, Christ would definately ask a Mormon to speak. He does it every Sunday.
Paul? The first corrupter of Christianity? The sleazeball who usurped the religion and made it his own?
Most "Chriatians" are actually followers of Paul, for in many cases, where Jesus says one thing and Paul says something different, like about obeying the old covenants and laws, Jesus is ignored and Paul obeyed.
No way Jesus would railed against as liberal socialist bent on destroying the US.
Yeah right, only Paul and the rest of the Christian community at the time, including St. Peter. You probably haven't researched the work of early church fathers which is why you are confused. How can it be that the things Jesus said, like in the gospel of Luke apparently are in contradiction to Paul's teachings, when Luke was Paul's disciple and the gospel was mostly based on witness of Paul?
Paul's letters are among the earliest writings of the Christian church (older than the gospels) which is an obvious reason why so many Christians use them as examples of the practices of the early church.
As a Mormon who went to BYU (a Mormon university), I enjoyed having leaders of other faiths occasionally speak at our weekly devotionals. I never heard this kind of controversy at BYU.
How about when Dick Cheney spoke at BYU graduation ceremonies a couple of years ago...
Over 3800 people signed the pet-ition against having him.
I must admit that watching two religions go at each other like this is something of a guilty pleasure, like watching roller derby. Too bad we can't arrange mud pits to wrestle in or pro wrestling rings with conveniently available folding metal chairs for hanfdy bashing. We could sell tickets and t-shirts and beer, make a fortune! We could schedule them the same day and town as any NASCAR event, a few hours later.
Big money to be made on this.
Money lunatics would go looney tunes for such a diasporismal consideration! Let'em have at it I say!
Except that they're not really 'having at it' which is apparent from Liberty's statement. CNN is trying to stir up a major story from a minor controversy. Last I heard 72% of evangelical Christians favor Romney vs 25% who favor Obama.